Duke, China research may aid cancer drug development

Jun. 02, 2014 @ 10:45 AM
Collaboration between Duke Medicine researchers and neurosurgeons and scientists in China produced new insights into a rare, deadly form of brain cancer called brainstem glioma.

Researchers identified a mutation in the tumor cells that affects both the growth and death of a cell. Also, the mutation of the newly identified gene may contribute to the tumor's radiation resistance.

The findings, published online in the journal Nature Genetics, have both immediate and long-term benefits, researchers say. Because the mutation may render radiation ineffective, patients can be spared that therapy. It would also be a strong candidate for drug development.

Genetic tests showed that many of the tumor cells had a mutation in a gene called PPM1D, which causes cells to proliferate and avoid natural death. It's the first time this mutation was found to be a major driving force in brainstem gliomas. It wasn't evident in other brain tumors.